Minimum alcohol price planned for England and Wales


Home Secretary Theresa May: "People who like going to their local pub have nothing to fear"

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The government is proposing a minimum price of 40p per unit of alcohol in England and Wales in an effort to "turn the tide" against binge drinking.

It believes this could transform the behaviour of those who cause the most problems for hospitals and police.

A new alcohol strategy also aims to help local areas tackle problems and work with the drinks industry to encourage responsible drinking.

Some in the industry suggest minimum pricing would face a court challenge.

The industry said a minimum price was misguided and would hit consumers hard.

Similar proposals are already being considered by the Scottish Parliament.

Under the minimum price proposal, such as at the suggested 40p level, it would act as a floor and retailers would not be allowed to offer alcohol cheaper than that.

Sobriety schemes

While most prices would be unaffected, it could significantly alter the price of heavily-discounted ciders, super-strength lager and cheap spirits.

Minimum alcohol pricing graphic

The impact could include:

  • A £2.99 bottle of red wine, containing 9.4 units of alcohol, would be priced up to £3.76
  • Cheap, strong lager at 75p a can, with three units per can, would become at least £1.20
  • Bulk-bought strong cider, costing 87p a can and containing four units, would almost double to at least £1.60
  • Cheap supermarket whisky at £16.10, with 40 units of alcohol, would probably be unchanged in price

A proposed ban on multi-buy offers would affect top-end promotions, such as a percentage discount on a half-case of wine, as well as the likes of buy-one-get-one-free budget deals.

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David Cameron is ignoring the conventional political advice about how to cheer up voters”

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The alcohol strategy also seeks to give local agencies an "extensive range of tools and powers" to tackle problem drinkers and premises, such as by restricting opening hours and density of licensed premises.

It also plans to "end the notion that drinking is an unqualified right by piloting sobriety schemes for those people whose offending is linked to excessive alcohol consumption", says the strategy document.

Plans are outlined to work with the drinks industry on "changing the drinking culture, from one of excess to one of responsibility; and from one where alcohol is linked to bad behaviour to one where it is linked to positive 'socialising'".

'Mayhem and fear'

Prime Minister David Cameron said the government wanted to turn around a drinking culture that last year had contributed to one million alcohol-related violent crimes and 1.2 million hospital admissions.


It is often said that alcohol is getting cheaper. That is not strictly true.

Over the last 25 years the price of booze has been rising at a faster rate than other goods and services.

The problem is that disposable income has gone up more, meaning we have more money to spend on luxury items and many of us are choosing to use that on alcohol.

Consumption has doubled since the 1950s and there are now 10 million adults drinking more than they should.

The effect can be seen across society. Alcohol-related hospital admissions, crime and disorder and absence from work are all higher than they were a decade ago.

The hope is that setting a minimum price might alter that.

Unlike banning below-cost selling, which is being introduced in England and Wales in April to stop drinks being sold at less than the tax paid on them, it affects the majority of drinks sold outside pubs.

But does this stop people consuming too much? The evidence suggests it might. Modelling by Sheffield University in 2008 found increasing price reduces consumption most among hazardous and harmful drinkers.

Mr Cameron said: "Binge drinking isn't some fringe issue, it accounts for half of all alcohol consumed in this country. The crime and violence it causes drains resources in our hospitals, generates mayhem on our streets and spreads fear in our communities."

He added: "We're consulting on the actual price, but if it is 40p that could mean 50,000 fewer crimes each year and 900 fewer alcohol related deaths per year by the end of the decade."

Home Secretary Theresa May said that just under the cheapest fifth of all alcohol sold would be affected by introducing a 40p minimum.

"Too many people think it's a great night out to get really drunk and have a fight in our streets," she told BBC Breakfast.

"What we need to do is to set a price that is actually going to ensure that we don't damage responsible drinkers. People who like a drink or two, who like going down their local pub, have nothing to fear from this policy."

Ministers say the minimum pricing could help pubs because it would stop supermarkets offering cheaper alternatives.

The strategy also includes a plan for a late-night levy to make clubs and pubs help pay for policing.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the Labour Party supported the idea of a minimum unit price, subject to debate about where it should be set to ensure it worked.

"The government needs to make sure it does not just create a cash windfall for the supermarkets, instead of lowering prices of other goods or supporting better prevention and treatment of alcohol abuse to cut crime further and save lives," she said.

Competition law

Just three months ago, the government said it thought minimum pricing would be incompatible with European competition law.

Units of alcohol

  • Bottle (75cl) of wine - 10 units
  • Small (125ml) glass of wine - 1.5 units
  • Standard (175ml) glass of wine - 2.1 units
  • Large (250ml) glass of wine - 3 units
  • Pint of weaker (3.6%) beer - 2 units
  • Pint of stronger (5.2%) beer - 3 units
  • Bottle (330ml) of beer - 1.7 units
  • Can (440ml) of beer - 2 units
  • Alcopop bottle (275ml) - 1.5 units
  • Small (25ml) shot of spirits - 1 unit
  • Large (35ml) shot of spirits - 1.4 units

Source: NHS

Gavin Partington, interim chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said he thought a minimum price move would be "highly likely" to face a legal challenge from a drinks company.

But he expressed concern the proposal could prove to be a "Trojan horse for tax", and if minimum pricing failed to make it through the courts then the government might simply increase duty on alcohol.

"I think one has to be quite sceptical," he said. "Only a few months ago you have got two ministers saying they understand it to be probably illegal, and suddenly now they are advocating it - I don't think the legal position has changed any."

Andrew Opie, of the British Retail Consortium, said: "Irresponsible drinking has cultural causes and retailers have been hugely engaged in information and education to change attitudes to drinking.

"It's a myth to suggest that supermarkets are the problem or that a pub is somehow a safer drinking environment. Effectively, a minimum price is a tax on responsible drinkers."

However, the proposal has received a cautious welcome from some in the drinks industry, such as C&C Group, which makes Magners cider and Tennent's lager.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, of the Royal College of Physicians and the Alcohol Health Alliance, welcomed the proposals.

Eric Appleby, Alcohol Concern: "We welcome this"

"Health care workers who struggle every day to cope with the impact of our nation's unhealthy drinking will welcome tough new policies in areas such as price and licensing that are based on evidence and should bring about real benefits," he said.

Chief Constable Jon Stoddart, the lead on alcohol for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: "Week in, week out, in town centres across the country, the police have to deal with the consequences of cheap alcohol and irresponsible drinking.

"The growing trend for 'pre-loading' means that young people are often drunk before they even enter a bar.

"By the time they hit the streets at closing they are more likely to get involved in crime and disorder or injure themselves or others."

What is a unit of alcohol?


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  • rate this

    Comment number 902.

    So this must be what is funding the 50p tax rate being reduced to 45p. Putting the price up is one thing as we have come to expect, but doubling it as in the example? Surely there is a law against this kind of extortion. All that will happen is people will cut back on alcohol which will mean less revenue generated in VAT. I think the govt have shot themselves in the foot with this one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 901.

    I spent a year in the Canadian mountains, The beer was terrible and HUGELY expensive! This did not stop anyone from purchasing less alcohol than they normally would, they just had much less money to spend in other areas: retail, shopping, events etc.
    This is no less sillier than the War on Drugs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 900.

    Ok great, but I doubt it will work. I work in social housing and see people coming in having addled their brains with years of binge drinking.

    I go out with my friends alot and am sometimes amused but mostly disgusted by the behaviour I witness of people having a "good night out". I am teetotal, seen as a loser who doesn't know how to have a good time because at 25, I have never been drunk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 899.

    The problem requires far more than just raising the price of alcohol and closing "problem premises".
    1. If drunkenness and crime fuelled by alcohol is a serious issue, then make laws to create effective sentencing = much stiffer penalties handed down by the courts
    2. Increase the legal age to buy and consume alcohol to 21, clearly younger people can't handle drinking responsibly in this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 898.

    Unfortunatly the problem of drunks on our streets late at night is caused by people taking advantage of cheap drinks in nightclubs.

    I play darts one night a week drink about 5 pints (dont get drunk i am used to that amount of drink) and pay about £16.

    Friends son goes to nightclub pays £2 to enter, and has 14 spirits @ £1 each.

    Now do you see the problem?

  • rate this

    Comment number 897.

    Slightly off topic but i've just been to visit my granny and was shocked to see that she had gone up in price.

  • rate this

    Comment number 896.

    Binge drinking is a behavioural problem of individuals influenced by peers and their elders. This is the legacy of the excess. "My parents drink: why can't I?" This is a right move, but it is not the solution. Education, less excess and parental/personal responsibility are the solutions. I gave up drinking recently: I have never felt better and been happier.

  • rate this

    Comment number 895.

    Minimum price for alcohol - Except for the House of Parliament bars I would hazard a guess!

  • rate this

    Comment number 894.

    @873 - no you're not an 'alcoholic' if you drink more than the recommended units. Look up harmful use, drinking problem and alcohol dependence. The second part of your post I agree with, but if you're going to start giving advice about it, at least use the right terminology.

  • rate this

    Comment number 893.

    I'm amazed at the number of posters who have swallowed the propaganda relating to 'units' of alcohol. There are no clinical trials to support this. A unit of alcohol was just plucked out of the air at 9 grams. The US unit is twice that of the UK. Alcohol consumtion per head continues to fall in the UK. We are 16th in the international league table. The Gov is bowing to prohibitionist killjoys.

  • rate this

    Comment number 892.

    Abolish the VAT on alcohol sold in pubs & clubs, and double it for alcohol sold in shops & supermarkets.

    Isn't that a simpler solution?

  • rate this

    Comment number 891.

    War on cigs nearly over, now the war on booze has begun.

    When thats won, what next?

    Walking down the pavement?

  • rate this

    Comment number 890.

    I'm currently working out in Norway where its costs £7-00 for a beer in a bar. They stop serving spirits at midnight no matter what time the bar closes. So you think this might cut down on drunkeness but a lot of people brew their own so get drunk on that before going out to the bar.

    No matter the price people will always find a way of getting hold of cheap booze.

  • rate this

    Comment number 889.

    Part of the problem is also the high cost of NON-alcoholic drinks in pubs & clubs ... there is little incentive to drink less alcohol when soft drinks cost more than the alcohol alternatives.
    If there was sensible alcohol-free pricing in pubs & clubs the binge culture would be reduced too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 888.

    Its perhaps important to realise that the SNP suggested minimum pricing for alcohol several years ago, and was rejected by the other mainstream parties i.e. the Tories.

    So whats changed?

  • rate this

    Comment number 887.

    I am far more concerned about our "Problem and Irresponsible" Government than I am about problem and irresponsible drinkers!

  • rate this

    Comment number 886.


    This fits with the Tories' idea of the ideal citizen :-

    1. work full time for minimum wage
    2. spend spare cash on cheap booze
    3. retire when the government says you can
    4. immediately drop dead before claiming any pension
    Yeah its a bummer, but thats what happens when theres no cash left

  • rate this

    Comment number 885.

    Would minimum pricing help? I doubt.
    Have I quit smoking because the price of cigarettes has increased? NO.
    If someone is habitual of drinking, and has little money:
    1. May be crime increases(muggging) so make money to buy alcohol.
    2. People who have to get high on cheap will always find innovative ways. Have sugar after 1 pint of beer instead of 4 pints or make a deadly cocktail?

  • rate this

    Comment number 884.

    A kick in the teeth for the all ready cash strapped family guy who enjoys the odd quiet drink at home after the kids are in bed. This won't have any affect on drunken behaviour in the streets. Alcohol is much cheaper abroad and they don't have this problem (expect to see more alcohol smuggling). We need stiffer penalties for those who behave in a violent drunken manner.

  • rate this

    Comment number 883.

    I would like to know where exactly I can get a pint of lager at a price at this new minimum of 80pence?! Where I live in the South East, the price of a pint is way beyond £3 now rising even further to £4 in London. For most sensible people like me who want to have a few drinks every now and again you're looking at spending a minimum of £30 on drinks when having a moderate night out.


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